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Editorial: bin Laden’s ‘evil is off this earth’

Updated: May 2, 2011 3:23PM

Charles Wolf’s wife, Katherine, was a classical pianist. He fell for her and her music and for all that is beautiful in this world.

But then his Katherine, just 37, was taken from him, one of almost 2,800 men, women and children killed in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center towers in New York.

For almost ten years, Charles Wolfe grieved. For almost ten years he raged and longed for the day when justice would catch up with the hateful man behind the 9/11 attacks and so many other deadly acts of terror, Osama bin Laden.

And on Sunday – nine years, seven months and 20 days after Katherine’s murder – that day finally came.

“I’m really glad this man’s evil is off this earth forever,” Wolf told reporters late on Sunday night, minutes after hearing that bin Laden had been killed.

Charles Wolf spoke for all right-minded people. We are all so glad, so damned glad, that bin Laden, the pre-eminent leader of Al Queda and the symbolic embodiment of terrorism around the world, was tracked down and killed Sunday by American forces in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

The evil of Osama bin Laden is “off this earth forever” — and good riddance.

But as much as we are tempted to read a great victory into this moment, we know bin Laden’s death ends nothing. It is at best an historic milestone in a war that civilized nations are destined to fight for generations to come. A war fought against men who hide in shadows, wear no uniforms and murder civilians is a war that can have no armistice, truce or treaty. Our nation and allies have no choice but to remain vigilant and fight on.

Yet a message was sent. We Americans, as President Obama said, “will never tolerate our security being threatened.” We will persevere and prevail, whether that takes ten days or ten years.

We will win this war.

What matters most, then, as this page has written many times before, is to wage the war on terror – to give no quarter to those who would destroy us – without forsaking the very values that make this great nation so worth fighting for.

We must insist on the rule of law at every turn, with due process and fair trials for even the most vicious terror suspects.

We must resist the urge, borne of fear, to compromise our civil liberties in the name of security, tapping private phone calls and riffling through private library records.

Above all, we must be tolerant or risk destroying ourselves from within.

The United States “is not and has never been at war with Islam,” Obama said Sunday, reminding us once again of whom the real enemy is. “Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader. He was a mass murder of Muslims.”

Osama bin Laden is dead. His evil is off this earth forever.

But the war on terror goes on.

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